By Warren Resen
The event was billed as a �Cowboy-Up� weekend at
Crescent J Ranch/Forever Florida. Most people seemed to think it meant
dressing up and playing cowboy for the weekend. The term, as used by
cowboys, especially at rodeos, has a totally different meaning.
Cowboy look-alikes above are the Lone
Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, "The Duke" John Wayne, and Lash LaRue.
The entertainers had an uncanny resemblence to the original
A big feature of the weekend festivities were
visits by old time Hollywood cowboy look-alikes. On hand to greet
visitors were �The Duke� John Wayne, the Lone Ranger, Hopalong
Cassidy, Lash LaRue and others. And they really looked the part.
Walking into the visitor center, I was stopped dead in my tracks. In
front of me stood �The Duke� in the flesh. It was uncanny.
The Hollywood heroes of old circulated through the crowd posing for photos,
personalizing glossies of themselves for fans and talking to everyone,
including me. These were all heroes from my childhood when I sat glued to my
seat on Saturday mornings watching cowboy pictures at the local movie
theatre. Yes, I'm that old.
Cloggers entertained at the event.
The weekend weather was
magnificent and all outdoor events went on as planned. In addition to the
cowboy look-alikes there was live music, clog dancing, horse shows and
demonstrations, games, food stations, a BBQ dinner, a steak & chicken night
and a hot morning breakfast buffet. Vendors selling all kinds of western
items and assorted memorabilia filled the wrap around veranda of the visitor
center and there were even western movies being shown inside.
The old Florida cow hunters probably never
envisioned anything like the get ups worn by the Hollywood
impersonators. The look-alikes were all fancied up like their movie
counterparts. It's what a cowboy, by Hollywood standards, was supposed
to look like. It's what several generations of kids worldwide fancied
a cowboy was supposed to dress like. In olden times, in a more rural
frontier Florida, being called a �cowboy� meant dressing up and going
to town to whoop it up.
The look-alikes had their fancy pearl handled guns
in fancy holsters hanging from equally fancy gun belts, except for
�The Duke.� He carried a single 45 caliber revolver in a plain brown
leather holster hung from a plain brown leather belt. None of that
fancy stuff for him. They were all excellent character portrayers who
tried to be as accurate to their movie counterparts as possible. And
Cracker cow herd at Forever Florida
But to Dr. William and Margret
Broussard, owners of the Crescent J Ranch and Forever Florida, the real
business behind the fun and games was to expose people to the 4,700 acres of
a working ranch and pristine preserve and show what is being done to save a
piece of old Florida. Visitors could take a 45 minute guided tour on a swamp
buggy through the ranch and adjoining conservancy.
Dr. Broussard owns the largest herd of registered
cracker horses and cows in the world. These are the descendents of the
original horses and cows brought into Florida in 1521 by Ponce de
Leon. That's the Crescent J Ranch part. The larger part of the
property, Forever Florida, is being preserved in its natural state to
honor their late son Allan, an ardent conservationist.
After sunset, I sat outside the
bunk house where I would be spending the night with my boyhood heroes. It
was a warm spring night and the conversation turned to other Hollywood
cowboy greats especially their hero, Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys. It was
with admiration and affection that they told stories of their meetings with
him. Other movie greats from the past also came up in conversation.
Their knowledge of cowboys as depicted by Hollywood
was extensive. When I asked what they knew about Florida's history,
after all, Florida is where the West began with the first modern
horses and the cows, their total combined knowledge was ZERO. But then
the lack of knowledge of Florida's long history is all too common. So
they had to endure a half hour lesson about the history I had learned
from Patrick Smith and his wonderful book, lectures from Palm Beach
County Judge Nelson E. Bailey about 500 years of Florida history and
stories from Iris Wall of Indiantown, and so many others.
Horses await riders at the Crescent J Ranch
- Forever Florida.
The Hollywood look-alikes bore no resemblance at
all to the Florida cow hunters as portrayed in �A land Remembered� by
Patrick Smith and yet when you ask people, even Floridians, to
describe a cowboy, they are familiar only with the movie screen
version. The cattle drives out West went on for about 10 years until
the railroads arrived. In Florida, the cattle drives went on for
almost 100 years. Will the real cowboy please stand up?!
Forever Florida has many events open to the public
all during the year. For information go their website at
Forever Florida is east of St. cloud along US 441
(N. Keanansville Rd.) south of Holopaw and north of Yeehaw Junction.
In case you are interested in local history, the
story about how Kenansville supposedly got its name was told to me by
someone down in Palm Beach at Whitehall, the Henry Flagler museum. As
the story goes, Henry Flagler's third wife, Mary Lily Kenan, wanted
someplace in Flagler's empire named for her family. Flagler was
reported not to be too keen on his mother-in-law so when he agreed to
do the deed he picked one of the remotest spots in his western rail
line and named it Kenansville.